The U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision on Thursday to uphold President Obama’s health care mandate as a tax prompted Democratic leaders in the District and Maryland, as early adopters of Mr. Obama’s vision, to rejoice while Virginia’s Republican governor denounced it as “a blow to freedom.”
Presaged as its most significant ruling in years, the high court’s opinion on the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010 will allow the District to continue its roll-out of a virtual marketplace that allows the small percentage of uninsured city residents — and those seeking a better deal — to shop for coverage.
While many states have challenged the legality of the law, the District joined Maryland, 10 other states and the Virgin Islands in urging the U.S. Supreme Court in January to uphold the law as constitutional.
“We are delighted that the Court has upheld the Affordable Care Act,” said D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray, who is traveling in China. “While the District already leads in access to care, we will continue moving forward to ensure every District resident has access to quality, affordable health care.”
Mr. Obama’s marquee law has enjoyed widespread support from leaders in the city, which is dominated by Democrats.
Wayne Turnage, director of the D.C. Department of Healthcare Finance, said he is “ecstatic” because the ruling allows the city to carry on with its plans to provide healthcare without putting up a large amount of local dollars.
“I am pleasantly surprised,” he said of the opinion. “That just shows the court is a lot smarter than I am.”
“Today’s decision gives considerable momentum to our health care reform efforts here in Maryland,” the statement said.
Meanwhile, leaders south of the Potomac River had little to cheer about.
“Today’s ruling is extremely disappointing for Virginia and America,” Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell said, arguing it will harm small businesses during trying economic times. “America needs market-based solutions that give patients more choice, not less.”
Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli, who filed his own federal court challenge to the health care law on behalf of Virginia, said the ruling marked “a dark day for American liberty.”
While Virginia officials challenged the law, their counterparts in Maryland the District led the nation in its implementation.
Mr. Gray established the city’s Health Reform Implementation Committee in early 2011 to ensure a “smooth and rapid” roll-out of the law. The city has been moving aggressively since then, so the District could begin enrollment in its healthcare exchange — a virtual marketplace of health insurance plans — by fall 2013.
On July 10, the D.C. Council is expected to confirm Mr. Gray’s nominees for an executive board to guide the exchange.
Mr. Obama’s reforms expanded the pool of Medicaid-eligible residents in the District, allowing adults without children and up to 200 percent of the poverty level to enroll under Medicaid. Before the ACA, childless adults could not be eligible for Medicaid without waiving provisions of the federal law.View Entire Story
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Tom Howell Jr. covers politics for The Washington Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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